- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Credit card hocus-pocus

It’s more than ironic that John Berlau, representing the Competitive Enterprise Institute, comes to the defense of credit card companies whose fees, policies and practices are clearly anti-competitive and anti-consumer (“Credit card ricochet,” Commentary, Sunday). His column is simply a collection of falsehoods and MasterCard/Visa talking points.

First, let me be perfectly clear. Merchants have never been for price controls. However, this is not a surprising argument coming from MasterCard and Visa, which are privately controlling prices and imposing hidden fees on virtually every purchase consumers make. These hidden fees cost merchants and consumers more than $30 billion last year.

Unfortunately, the average consumer has no idea that this fee is imposed every time he makes purchases with his Visa and MasterCard cards. Why? Because Visa and MasterCard rules effectively prohibit merchants from telling consumers how much interchange costs them. Secrecy and hidden fees have no place in a competitive marketplace.

Second, MasterCard and Visa each engage in illegal price fixing in the way they set interchange fees. Today, there’s no effective competition in setting these fees.

Finally, merchants believe that Americans have a fundamental right to know how much the interchange fee is on any transaction and the choices shoppers could make to avoid it. Transparency and choice, not secrecy, are the hallmarks of a genuinely competitive market.

TIM HAMMONDS

President and CEO

Food Marketing Institute

Washington

Prayer in schools

A Baylor University poll (“Belief in God remains strong in U.S., poll finds,” Nation, Sept 12) finds that 70 percent of respondents “would allow prayer in schools.” Too many Americans assume that students can’t pray in school. That is wrong. Every student has the right to pray in school. The Supreme Court outlawed only government-sponsored or government-mandated prayer.

Every student may pray whenever and however he or she pleases or has been taught at home or church. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all prayer.

EDD DOERR

President

Americans for Religious Liberty

Silver Spring

Intolerable faithfuls

Tulin Daloglu’s column “Turkey’s papal reaction” (Op-Ed, yesterday) was alarming, both for what it said and for what it failed to report. Trying at first to sound reasonable and soothing (“no matter how provocative and insensitive the statement, reacting with violence is never acceptable”) Miss Daloglu goes on to build an argument that criticism of Islam and Muhammad is also never acceptable.

Somehow, being critical of Islam is “an incomparable waste of a chance for real dialogue and a general examination of the faith from within.” When have Muslims shown any evidence of wanting any dialogue or examination from within? What does a “dialogue” mean when one side condemns all other faiths and teaches that all non-Muslims should die violent deaths unless they accept Islam? Miss Daloglu urges Muslims and Christians to “trust” each other — but on what basis? Trust bespeaks tolerance, and Muslims have not shown themselves to be tolerant of other faiths.

Miss Daloglu quotes Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul but fails to quote his country’s religious leader, who made the absurd statement that the pope’s comment was reminiscent of the crusaders’ attacks on Istanbul — an Orwellian parody of the truth so preposterous that one could only conclude that the man has never taken a history lesson. Istanbul once was Constantinople, the religious and political center of the Byzantine Empire, ruled by a Christian Orthodox Emperor, until it was destroyed by Muslim invaders and all Christians were put to the sword. The Christian Crusades ceased in the 13th century, but the Muslim crusades have continued unabated in our time. Everywhere that Muslim armies have gone, churches and temples have been destroyed or turned into mosques, with frescoes, mosaics and statues obliterated.

Only after countries such as Bulgaria were liberated from the Ottomans were their churches-turned-mosques reconsecrated as places of worship for the Christian population. It was Turkey’s first secular leader, Kemal Ataturk, who made the Hagia Sofia, a magnificent Byzantine basilica-turned-mosque, into a museum, perhaps in recognition of the pain that its desecration had caused Eastern Orthodox Christians. However, the spirit of Ataturk is fast fading from the Turkish landscape and being replaced with the intolerance typified by Islamic fundamentalism. Until Islam acknowledges the pain and suffering its adherents have caused other faiths, there can be no “dialogue” or bridge-building.

OLGA WELLER

Bethesda

Bleeding hearts

I read the article “Allen, Webb face off on NBC” (Metropolitan, Monday) with dismay.

I could not help but wonder if Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr., Sens. John W. Warner and John McCain and former Secretary of State Colin Powell realize we are at war with terrorists — terrorists who are not covered by the Geneva Convention.

All this talk about “torture” and moral high ground is just plain silly. Did we worry about moral high ground in World War II when we were killing hundreds of thousands of civilians nightly while bombing Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? No, of course not. We did not try to appease our enemies as we are trying today. We brought them to their knees so they wouldn’t want to fight another day. We cared about winning and did what it took.

America today is more worried about image, political correctness, sensitivities, frat-house “torture” and moral high ground than winning the war against Islamic extremists.

I realize Mr. McCain is still fighting gremlins from his past and most likely shouldn’t be involved in this torture revision, but Mr. Webb, Mr. Warner, Mr. Powell and the Democratic likes who claim we are torturing terrorists by playing loud music, stripping them naked, turning down the heat or providing full-service medical treatment, eight hours of sleep that cannot be disturbed, three meals a day, air conditioning and first-class dental care at Gitmo are just crazy and should not be in positions to influence anything other than their own children.

Many of our soldiers have fallen into enemy hands during the war on terror, and most of them have been tortured and brutally killed, execution-style or by throat-slitting. Does Mr. McCain think his moral high ground will prevent these brutal murders in the future? Is this the worry Mr. Webb references that our military leaders have if our troops come into enemy hands? American heroes taken prisoner and brutally murdered and Democrats wanting to coddle the murdering terrorist thugs under the Geneva Convention? Something is wrong here.

BRYAN CALLAN

Washington

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